The Onyx Court is crumbling. The gradual demolition of the London Wall dealt the first blow to the faerie palace beneath the city. Now the Underground is hammering in the coffin nails, its iron rails ripping through the fabric of the palace. Queen Lune has not been seen in years. The elegant court is no more, and ruthless mob bosses rule in the sinister Goblin Market. Now, the Underground’s Inner Circle is nearing completion and may destroy what’s left of the Onyx Court forever.
The fate of the faerie city lies in the hands of three unlikely heroes, all of them from society’s lower classes. Eliza is a street vendor, later a maid, who faces anti-Irish prejudice in mortal London while searching for her lost sweetheart, Owen, who was taken by the faeries seven years ago. Dead Rick is a skriker (dog shapeshifter, death omen) who was once a loyal Queen’s man; now, his memories stolen, he’s been forced to serve as a minion for the brutal mob boss Nadrett. Benjamin Hodge is the Prince of the Stone, and the only man who knows where Lune really is and what she is doing. He’s no aristocrat, but the Prince must be a man born within the boundaries of the old Wall, and the rich have long since moved further into the suburbs. These characters have a different view of London than an upper-crust character might have — and this becomes important later. Supporting characters include some favorites (and some love-to-hate-‘ems) from previous books, such as Irrith, Valentin Aspell, and the Goodemeade sisters.
With Fate Conspire is not as steampunk-ish as the cover might suggest; if you’re into steam-powered gadgetry, there are other novels that use a lot more of it. But Marie Brennan does include several Victorian technologies in this novel. The Underground is the immediately obvious one, but developments such as photography, the difference engine, and the mechanical loom have their role to play. Brennan gives these technologies a magical twist and incorporates them into the story in interesting ways.
Like the previous Onyx Court books, With Fate Conspire started slowly for me, though I found the descriptions of the dying Onyx Court heartrending after having seen it in splendor in the past three installments. Then, when our heroes started to cautiously forge friendships and coalesce into a team, something just clicked. This is one of those books where you read a little here, read a little there, and then devour the last 150 pages in one day. You reach a point where every scene packs an emotional punch. My favorites include Dead Rick’s decision to become the good man his old friends remember; and the climax, which serves in part as a tribute to characters we’ve loved in the previous books. The ending is a fitting conclusion to the tales of the Onyx Court. There is room for further books in this world, but it will be a changed world.
If you’ve been following the Onyx Court series, you won’t want to miss this one. If you’re looking for a unique read about faeries in a richly detailed London through several centuries, give this series a try. I’ve very much enjoyed it. (And Dead Rick is awesome.)